When Star Wars came to County Kerry
Portmagee is a pretty village, synonymous with the type of delights you’ll find along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. But it’s not where you’d expect to find one of the world’s biggest film production crews. In 2014, though, drawn by the mystical beauty of Skellig Michael, Star Wars: The Force Awakens came to town...
Very soon, Portmagee became the place where Luke Skywalker learned to pull a pint, tutored by The Bridge Bar’s Ciaran Kelly. It’s where the Star Wars wrap party was held, with Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill joining locals (and even a few lucky tourists) for a traditional Irish music session. And it’s where the cast and crew tucked into delicious food served up in The Moorings.
Mark Hamill seemed to be really enjoying himself. My nieces and nephews were singing and dancing for them, and both he and Daisy were really generous about listening and clapping.Vincent O’Keeffe, The Moorings
According to Portmagee native Vincent O’Keeffe, it was a particularly surreal experience – he found out in a casual phone call from his sister that the production office was going to be in the sitting room where he grew up, upstairs in The Moorings guesthouse. Run by Gerard and Patricia Kennedy, The Moorings is a warm, friendly spot that was transformed into a hotbed of Star Wars-related activity. If you want to get a sense of what it was like when Star Wars arrived in Kerry, this is the place to go.
Out of this world
Standing in the quiet of the village, it’s hard to imagine Star Wars here. But this was the epicentre of the action. B&Bs in the area were filled with production crew, local sherpas carried loads up Skellig Michael, and boatmen like Seanie Murphy transported equipment onto the island, as well as ensuring a safe crossing for the crew.
On the last day, we played the Star Wars music over the tannoy of the ship. It went down well with the cast and crew.Commander Ken Minehan, Irish Navy
Even the Irish Navy got into the inter-galactic act, with Commander Ken Minehan and his crew coming to the rescue of those on Skellig Michael during bad weather. Mark Hamill, JJ Abrams and Daisy Ridley were well looked after with tea and biscuits on the naval ship from the island to Portmagee, much to the delight of the crew, who Commander Minehan describes as “extreme Star Wars geeks”.
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Three Skelligs Viewing Points by Vincent O'Keeffe
St Finian's Bay
“The rocks are a backdrop to a gorgeous little beach, with Skellig Michael slightly obscured by Little Skellig.”
Bray Head, Valentia Island
“It's about a 30 minute hike up the headland ... you can see Con O'Shea's farm beyond – the unit base for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“Looking out over Reencaheragh cliffs towards the islands is pretty special, and the cliffs themselves are amazing.”
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The beauty of this area was not lost on the big stars, either. A short drive away in the pretty village of Waterville, the Butler Arms Hotel was home to Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill; a place they adored. “It was great to have them,” says Louise Huggard. “They loved the place and the weather was fantastic."
They loved the food in the hotel here, too… they even said to me it was better than The Ivy.Louise Huggard, Butler Arms Hotel
The warm Kerry welcome obviously meant a lot to both actors, who left a note in the Butler Arms saying it "felt like home". But those insanely beautiful Kerry views also had an impact. "Daisy rang me after she left," says Louise. "As she wanted me to take pictures of the view from her room."
What a lovely piece of Kerry to take home with her.
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